Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Beginnings by Diane Burton

Everything seems to change in September. I guess we’re so conditional by school calendars we think of September as the start of a new year. Last September was a new beginning for Hubs and me. We moved into a new house. After years of living in houses designed for others, we had one built just for us.

I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories connected to building a house—from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home to The Money Pit. Ours wasn’t like either of those movies. Our financial planner, who had just had an addition built onto his house, told us to factor in an additional thirty percent. The banker who approved our construction loan disagreed, that this builder didn’t do things like that. Well, we went over budget. Not because of the builder, but because of what we wanted. Like a real laundry room instead of the washer and dryer in a closet, lever door handles instead of knobs, no thresholds, wider doors to the bathroom, and a handicap accessible shower. We want to stay in this house as long as possible so we thought ahead to a time when one of us might have limited mobility. Our rationale? As long as we were doing this, we needed to do it right. For us. Of course, all those changes added up quickly. Not anywhere close to thirty percent worth, though.

We’re very happy with our new beginning in a new town. We moved because we wanted to be close to our grandchildren. And we’ve certainly enjoyed their company. We know it won’t be long before they’ll have their own extra-curricular activities, their own friends, and won’t have time for their grandparents. Until then, we’ll enjoy their company (and our daughter and son-in-law’s) as much as we can without having to drive nearly two hours there and back.

When we moved in a year ago, this house felt like home immediately. Even though we moved often, I never had that feeling before. With boxes all around me, I sat down that first day and thought “this is home.” It still feels that way.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How Leaving Home Made me Fall in Love With Writing again.

I’ve been having a bit of a jaded time recently; you know the sort of thing when you just can’t work
up any enthusiasm for anything…several books almost done but I guess my Muse had taken off on vacation, because she certainly wasn’t doing much to help me get inspired.
So, what to do? A couple of days away from home, work, keyboard, from my life, usually shakes me out of it. Not that we actually live a gadabout life, but a couple of days here and there are within budget and refreshing. Any longer than a couple of days and we return to three felines who turn their backs on us and refuse to be tempted to cuddles without some major grovelling by their humans.
This time it was off to Toronto, an overnight hotel stay curtesy of a special TravelZoo offer. Toronto
is such a modern, clean, friendly city that it’s hard to get bored there, although I wouldn’t trade my country lifestyle for a return to city dwelling.
We visited China Town, which is an outing in itself. The area is so colorful, with stores full of fascinating herbs, veggies that aren’t in our local market,  jewelry, clothing, drinks…and streets full of colorful, interesting, friendly people of all ethnic varieties.
A visit there is a tonic in itself. Totally revitalising.

Our target was the Art Gallery of Ontario. There was a special exhibit of the work of Alex Colville,
the Maritimes artist whose wonderful work has received great acclaim. I’d never seen original Colville works before, and it was mind blowing. Many of his paintings are ‘everyday’ scenes but there is a disturbing element in them…you get the feeling from some of them that everything is not quite as it seems…
I have to admit that I’m fascinated by artistic people; Indeed, from time to time I've dabbled myself. And no, there won't be any of my attempts at acrylics on display ion this blog! However, the heroine of my very first novel, Judgement By Fire, is a wildlife artist who is prepared to take on a huge corporation to save the woodland artists’ colony where she lives. She finds herself falling in love with the CEO of the international corporation, putting her life in danger, and having to unravel a mystery involving a tangled web of hatred decades in the making..

How’s that for writing a teaser without giving the plot away? You can read the first chapter at my website, www.glenysoconnell.com
Seriously, though, if you get a chance to visit a Colville exhibition, do go. Everyone needs refresh their creative soul now and again. And leaving home is a great way to do it. :-) And now I'm signing off, because I'm totally wired and can't wait to get back to writing!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Falling, Crushing Disappointment by Nancy Jardine

Please join me in welcoming Nancy Jardine to The Roses of Prose today!

Last week, a devastating disillusionment affected my writing. Prior to the recent Scottish Referendum on Independence, I couldn’t settle to tasks. Like a butterfly momentarily hovering and pecking, then taking off to find a juicier meal, the ping of yet another Face Book entry was incredibly distracting but unlike normal, I couldn’t bear to close down the programme in case I missed something important. The anticipation of change was all-consuming, though disturbing.

The crushing disappointment came for me when the referendum results were announced. The ‘YES to an Independent Scotland’ camp was close at 45% of the vote, but not close enough. Having voted YES, I despaired of missed opportunities for the future – especially for my toddler granddaughter and grandson. I was truly heartbroken when the breakdown of voting indicated that the over 65s age group were the largest group who chose to keep the Union together – unjustifiably fearful of future changes to their state retirement pensions and fearful of upsetting the status quo they have lived under for decades. Disenchantment and crushing frustration is rife across Scotland which is equally upsetting. Promises made by the Unionist parties in the current Westminster UK government are now awaited with baited breath- since promises and agreements are too often broken very easily, and sadly often have been broken throughout history.

In my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures, my warriors are devastated when their way of life is crushed by Ancient Roman infiltration of their lands - violent bloodshed a result. In Book 1, my Celtic tribes make alliances to stand together against the forces of Rome -‘Unity is strength’ a strong theme. Unfortunately, my Celtic Garrigill warrior brothers have known of too many pacts with the Roman Empire which have faltered and failed, the agreements made not honoured which eventually prompts physical, bloody battles. Newly formed romantic attachments are difficult to nurture and sustain in warlike situations, so my main characters have to overcome many conflicting factors which hamper the development of their love during such trying times.

Feeling very emotionally fragile and unable to write, I re-read parts of my series to see how successful I’d been at conveying the emotions of my characters at particular vulnerable moments in their stories, when situations they find themselves in seem insurmountable. In Book 2 - After Whorl: Bran Reborn - my main character Brennus of Garrigill finds his life is dramatically altered after a particularly bloody battle at Whorl between the Celts and the Legions of Rome. Seriously injured during the battle, he finds liberty is denied him when he eventually comes back to full consciousness … “An itch he’d not fully recognised irritated at his temple but, when he tried to lift his hand to scratch, he was unable to move his arm. Something restrained him. A second wave of fright overwhelmed.
The old woman had tied him to the cot!”
At this point in the story, Brennus has no idea if the old crone who has him restrained is a sympathetic Celt, or if she is in the pay of the Roman usurpers.

Here’s the blurb followed by an excerpt which comes just after Brennus believes he’s a prisoner, incapable of regaining his freedom.

Maybe you could tell me if I’ve hit the right balance of emotional conflict for my poor injured warrior?

Ravaged by war

…AD 71. After the battle at Whorl, Brennus of Garrigill is irrevocably changed. 

Returning to Marske, Ineda finds her grandmother dead, though Brennus is not. Snared by a Roman patrol, they are marched to Witton where he is forced to labour for the Roman IX Legion. 

Embracing his new identity as Bran, Brennus vows to avert Roman occupation of northernmost Brigantia. Ineda becomes his doughty spying accomplice, though sometimes she’s too impetuous. Trading with the Romans lends excellent opportunities for information gathering. Over time, Bran’s feelings for Ineda mar with his loyalty to Ineda’s father. 

When she disappears, and cannot be found, Bran enters direct service with Venutius, King of the Brigantes

“It will pain you very much, but I need to know if you see anything?”
Unable to sustain it – the intensity too searing – Brennus closed both his eyes to replenish his fortitude then attempted to open only the right eye. The brilliance stole his breath, the darting sting perhaps less intense, or mayhap he was adjusting to it. Yet, though it was bright – that was all it was. He could not see.
“Painful! Bright and blurred.” Though he tried to prevent the despair, he was sure it was evident in every cried word.
A shadow of the old woman loomed close to his face, her warmth and breath now familiar to him. A longer outline was a sudden threat he instinctively knew could harm him. He flinched his chin away, the old woman’s cackle of laughter startling in the quiet room as his left eye popped open to check what was amiss.
“Just tell me if you see the edge of the blade clearly with only your right eye, young warrior. I am not going to harm you with it.”
Agony shrieked through his right eye, the leaking moisture something he could not prevent. He closed his left once again, to do as she bid, the knife hovering at a reasonable distance. All was as in a deep misty day, no vision beyond a hazy dark shape in a light greyness. A dark desolation gripped him. How could he function as a tribal champion if he was blind? Along with the hopelessness, a wretched anger took hold of him. Why had Taranis so abandoned him? He had always paid due diligence to his god. What kind of reward for his skills in battle was blindness?
“Your answer.” The old woman kept her patient tone.
“You cannot see the blade? Or you will not tell me?”
He yanked his head away from her chin grip for he truly had only seen a vague shadow of the blade. The melancholy deepened. Blind? How could he train young warriors if sight was only in one eye? And what other dire injuries had he sustained if she had tied him down? What was there left to strap down?
Forcing himself to focus on the rest of his body, he willed himself to rise. In his head he moved, but when he looked down to his feet his body still lay prone under the blanket. By Taranis! What else was badly wrong with him? His fingers moved the blanket, the blood flowing there, but almost nothing came from his feet. Even tied down his feet should be able to stir the blanket.
His head felt full to bursting with…rage. His misery deepened further. What use was he if his lower body was dead?
No man at all!
He took his utter disenchantment out on the only person available, his tone merciless. “You should have left me to die, old woman.”
“Why would I have struggled to keep you alive for more than two moons if I did not deem you worthy of it?”

#2 Celtic Fervour Series - After Whorl: Bran Reborn - is available from
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1jaYWFw  

Amazon.com author page http://amzn.to/RJZzZz

Scottish author, Nancy Jardine, writes Historical Adventures with varying degrees of Romantic elements. Her Celtic Fervour Series is about a warrior tribe from the hillfort of Garrigill during the late first century AD – in an era when the mighty forces of Ancient Rome advance on the Celtic tribes of northern Britain causing havoc to life and love. She also writes contemporary mystery romances. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Landing With A Plop

By Betsy Ashton

I admit it. I'm clumsy. Before I was born, my mother wanted to name me after my two grandmothers: Delia Grace. I wish Delia was my name, but Grace? Get real, Mom. She knew something I didn't even before I was born. I was going to be clumsy. My nickname at school would have been Graceless. Heck, I can trip over flowers in the carpet.

I watch my feet all the time. Sometimes that leads me to run into posts or walls. Mostly, I watch my feet when I go up or down staircases. I trip up much more frequently than I trip going down. I have no idea why, but I do.

I've had some spectacular plops in my lifetime. The worst fall wasn't caused by me tripping. I was caused by me swinging onto my horse just as a drunk in a car came around a curve on the highway. He honked, shouted and threw a can of something at her. He yelled, "Hi yo, Silver." Those of you old enough to remember "The Lone Ranger" know that when the Lone Ranger shouted this his horse reared onto his hind legs. My horse jumped out from under me, unceremoniously dropping me on my back. On asphalt. She didn't run off but stood on my pigtails and nuzzled my face until I recovered consciousness. I didn't think I was injured, so I mounted and continued to the upper pasture to move our small herd of cattle to the lower pasture where we could give them water easily. Did I forget to say we were expecting a blizzard the next day?

The blizzard hit. So did the pain. My mother took me to the emergency room. I came home a week later. I'd broken my knee and torn all kinds of cartilage and tendons, broken three vertebrae and cracked my hip. Did I say I had a concussion? I did. Needless to say, my mother was not amused.

I've had many different falls all my life, even after doing yoga for 40+ years, but none so spectacular as that one. I was sixteen at the time. Had I been named Grace, I would have been the deserving butt of so many jokes.

My last fall led me to write a haiku:

Ice-shrouded world
One slippery step –
Technicolor moon.

On that happy note, watch where you step. Your feet could do you in.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The second book in the series, Uncharted Territory, will be released in June 2015. She lives for words and writing.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Falling into place -- travel-wise

I had a busy September planned. Out of town the first weekend, out of town the third weekend (extended for 4 days), then out of town for more than a week at the end.

Then small things started to go awry. The relatives I would be visiting in LA had another pressing obligation that coincided with the weekend I'd be there. That was a costly trip in terms of vacation time and money (hotel, shuttle, etc.)

Then my cat developed diabetes and requires 2 shots a day. I have a caregiver coming to the house, but she's a friend and I really can't ask her to drive 12 miles twice a day to give a shot. So he'll have to be boarded when we're out of town for a week. That isn't so costly, but getting the updates on his vaccinations is.

Then the Paycheck Job raised its head and my deadlines all shifted. What was due in early September was due -- you guessed it -- right when I was supposed to go to LA. It wasn't really a problem because I was caught up, but there was still a lot of churn going on.

So I canceled the LA trip (or rather postponed it, since I was flying Southwest and I won't lose the ticket) and the money I save there will pay for the cat going to the "condo" for a week. I can focus on Paycheck work so when I leave town at the end of the month I can truly relax.

Sometimes all these little churns (my word for when everything around you seems unhinged) just fall into place and work out. I'm hoping the same thing happens in my current work-in-progress. I have one plot point that's giving me fits. Let's see if I can get that worrisome little detail worked out. Then I can truly relax....

J L Wilson
(too many books to count...)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Self Publishing - The Pros and Cons by JoAnne Myers

The best thing about self-publishing is that you are guaranteed to be published, no matter what type book you choose to write. Traditional publishers often look for something not yet written about, or seldom written about; such as true life alien abductions, or what Earth might be like in the year 4000, if humans last that long.
Self-publishing allows the author more leeway with subject matter. The author can tell it like it is; unlike traditional publishers who generally follow a code of conduct, for the fear of treading on someone’s toes. Traditional publishers always have that fear of being sued for libel, whereas self-publishers tend to not care what others think.  
            With self publishing every detail is up to the author. From hiring a professional editor if the self publishing author is not prolific in the English language. Editing is expensive, and every book, even self publishing needs some editing to help polish the final product. Self-publishing does offer editing and marketing services, but for an additional price, that can be expensive. All that work is taken care of by a traditional publisher, which means less headaches and work for the author.
            When it comes to book covers, self-publishing companies usually give the author a selection of artwork to choose from. Some of this artwork is free, but some usually cost a few dollars. The free artwork is seldom great, and might not coincide with the books material. For paid artwork at self-publishing companies, the artwork is upgraded and more pleasing to the eye, but is an extra cost, which might for some self-publishers, mean an extra dent in their pocketbooks. Traditional publishers have their own art department, which means the author is guaranteed a terrific book cover, which is included in the contract. Both self-publishing and traditional publishing companies, though, usually allow the author to use their own artwork if the author chooses too, especially if the book is about the author’s family, pet, friends, or profession.  Using personal artwork adds a touch of personification and genuine sincerity to the book; which is always a good selling point.
            What I discovered through Amazon, and something they did not tell me in the beginning, is that with them, the author must keep a supply of their books at the Amazon warehouse. Amazon is not a print on demand (POD) distributor as is Lulu, as I initially believed it to be.  Also, with the author’s books being stored at the Amazon warehouse, the author is charged for a monthly storage fee. I don’t know what this storage fee is, but I do know, that the more books the author keeps stored, the higher the storage fee is. This storage requirement can be expensive. The author is required to pay this monthly storage fee, even if their book does not sell. When it comes to any type of artwork, whether it be books, jewelry, or candles, artwork is usually a hard product to sell. If it were easy, all artists and authors would be wealthy.
            Lulu on the other hand, is a print on demand self publisher. They do not store books, but keep each title stored in a queue, at a contracted print on demand printer.
            Also, what I understand is that Lulu allows 80% of the royalties to go to the author, and Amazon allows 70%, but that percentage is only applicable for books sold to certain countries outside of the U.S., such as Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India, and only for titles enrolled in KDP Select.  This in reality, means that the author receives an average 35% of the sales, and Amazon gets the other 65%.
            A author can struggle with locating a traditional publishing company for many reasons. They have written a book that only they are interested in; such as their family history. I don’t believe most would be interested in reading about someone else’s family tree, unless it is as brilliant as the book Roots, was. If a author is struggling with locating a traditional publishing company, than self-publishing is for them. I for one believe that if a writer has written a book, they should continue seeking out the traditional publishing company. This only applies if their book is polished and ready for sale. If a book has many graphical errors, it will not be taken seriously by a traditional publisher. Getting away with graphical errors in a self-published book is possible, but it would be disappointing and frustrating to the reader.  Whether the book is self-published or traditionally published, the final product should be free of errors, and entertaining, and pleasing to the eye. In my opinion, when it comes to Lulu versus Amazon, Amazon bites the dust. Good luck.

For the Love of Ginnie
I don’t know why I wanted to save the life of a person I never met. Maybe it was because I was tired of bachelorhood. Maybe it was because I was a chemist and the unusual, and unexplained, fascinated me. Or, maybe, it was because I was obsessed with this twenty-year-old, dark-haired beauty named Mary Virginia “Ginnie” Wade I had read about. These questions filtered through my mind as I drove to the bar to meet my best friend Will.
Will’s favorite hangout was “The Bling,” originally an old truck stop on State Route 93, in Nelsonville, Ohio. The place became a restaurant/lounge/dance hall and brothel when semis no longer became a necessity for long distance hauling. The invention of the transporter also replaced many other primitive jobs such as mail delivery and travel. “The Bling” was best known for the large flashing lights suggesting scantily clad women in seductive positions above the front entrance, and its “bulldogs,” monster-sized bouncers in Armani suits who patrolled its two-block perimeter, inside and out.
“The Bling,” just another joint with a sleazy atmosphere, like all alcohol-serving establishments, differed only in that it catered exclusively to class “A” clientele. Politely—or maybe not so politely—everyone called it the “Whorehouse for the rich and bored.” Its reputation grew. Its income grew even faster.
I pulled up in front and exited my vintage DeLorian, tossing the keys to the baby-faced valet, by-passed the doorman with no questions asked. Just an exchange of large smiles between us. Will was also part-owner.
As I entered the twenty-four carat gold, electronic doors, Will immediately spotted me and motioned me toward the bar with his diamond embellished hand.
I loved sitting at the bar. It was the perfect place to see the shows. “Two double scotches and water,” Will said, as we shook hands, and I slid into my seat beside him, just as the tall, leggy waitress produced the drinks in an instant.
I immediately recognized the “girl” as one of the latest “do-everything-like-a-wife” robotics. Robot manufacturing had become a booming business since the last war destroyed the immune and reproductive systems in most humans, especially females.
“I don’t know why you waste your time flirting with non-humans,” I said, cautiously sipping my drink. The immense emptiness of not being able to acquire a wife and soul mate, I felt at this age in my life, almost drove me to alcoholism, but my boss and mentor, Doctor Obar Gabry, intervened, saving my life and promising career.
“Because, dear friend,” Will began, “beggars can’t be choosey, and ladies are in scarce supply. Beside, these ‘girls’ are all pink inside.”
Ugh!” I said, gulping down a large swallow of alcohol as if it could wash away my friend’s vile mental picture from my mind.
“Come on, Alex, loosen up. Live a little.” Will motioned to the waitress for another round of drinks. “You’re alive, so act like it. Don’t let your beautiful mind go to waste. This world needs people like you. People started treating me like a god once I became an entrepreneur, and I love it.”
I had to laugh. Maybe my self-pity stage had outlived its use. Only I can find a wife for myself. I certainly won’t ask Will to hook me up. His sense of values are as artificial as the women he beds.
The pain and loneliness I felt at times from yearning for a life-long partner and family wasn’t easy to accomplish. Scientific and Medical technology still could not reverse the sterilization effects on the female species.
Sure there were some human women to date. But most were either sterile, too old, too young, or there was just no chemistry between the two of us. I wanted that spark that unites between two people madly in love...like my parents. I never met any couple happier with one another then my beloved parents. That’s the kind of love I want…never ending.
The emptiness and frustration of not finding companionship at times made me want to die. But that was the loneliness talking. I know that now. I love life. I want to live, and I know who I want for a wife. It’s just that meeting her would be a little tricky.
Abruptly, I asked, “What do you think about time travel?”
“Are you serious?” Will asked. “Scientists have tried to conquer time travel for hundreds of years, and failed.”
“Maybe they failed because they weren’t Doctor Gabry and me.”
Will looked at me in awe. “Oh, my god, you’re serious!”
“We discovered something today in the lab,” I said, giving him an arrogant smile. “We believe this is the answer.”
“So who is to be the Guinea pig?”
Silence came from Will, then a gasp. “That could be suicide.”
“Or the biggest discovery of the thirtieth century.”

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